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Arts Boosters prepare for annual Arts Festival April 26

Once again, the Morris Area Arts Boosters will be holding its annual Arts Festival, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., on Saturday April 26 at the Morris Area High School.

This year's festival will feature all local entertainment, from local dance groups, to elementary through high school singers and musicians, UMM performers, Mary Hu reading her poetry, Kiwanis performers and more.

Back by popular demand will be the Stevens County Pork Producers, pizza, bars, and pop.

There will be an Arts Table for the kids to try their hands at creativity, face painting, many games including the fish pond, minnows, bean bag tosses and more. And the always popular Cake Walk promises to be a great time for kids of all ages.

There will be a Silent Auction, with featured items including two season tickets to the 2008-2009 University of Minnesota Morris Performing Arts Series; two performance tickets to the Guthrie's production of "The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde"; and a watercolor by local artist Della Conroy.

The UMM performing Arts Series brings in world class talent, and next year's series includes "Capitol Steps" -- the well-known political satire troupe, the Lula Washington Dance Company, award-winning pianist Chu-Fang Huang, a Van Cliburn Competition finalist and Julliard graduate, the Continental Ballet Company, and "Romanza"--Canada's own "Three Tenors."

The festival is one of the boosters' primary fund-raising events of the year. This is the fourth year of its "revival" as a booster organization for the arts in the Morris schools, and they have raised over $20,000 in that time.

The group has funded various requests from teachers to defray costs for arts related instruction, providing prizes for the poetry competition, entry fees for music clinics. The boosters are now expecting some larger, upcoming requests -- tentatively for a new backstage piano at the high school, and more in-school residencies in drama and dance. The boosters invite teachers to submit requests for funding supplies or other arts-related needs.

In 2005, the Morris Area Arts Boosters was revived as a result of the Comprehensive Arts Planning Process and the corporate name and mission of the boosters was changed to reflect not just music, but "to foster arts educational activities in and for the Morris Area Schools ... ."

The current Board of Directors of the Morris Area Arts Boosters is: Deb Economou, president; Dot Vick, secretary; Bart Finzel, treasurer; Adair Horgan; Stacey Aronson; and Debra Luetmer;

The boosters are always seeking to increase its membership base, and also is seeking anyone interested in serving on the board. April is the group's annual membership drive, so "be on the lookout" for a letter from the boosters, Economou said.

Membership is open to any and all who are interested in the arts, this month is a prelude to the boosters' Fourth Annual Arts Festival.

The boosters' long-range goals -- in a time of dwindling support for arts education -- is developing long-term and sustainable funding for support of arts education in the schools.

"We must find ways to keep the arts alive in the schools, either through grants, or if possible, an endowments for the arts," Economou said. "A child, once taught how to read a poem, sing a song, play an instrument, how to paint or create, will have a more civilized approach to life."